Perfect for the blues

This month's Harmony Player is veteran blues singer and guitarist Dr. Helander.



SUOMEKSI                                                             Pic by Juha Ahvenainen


  1. Which model/models of Harmony-made guitars do you own?

I have this very simple solidbody which resembles a Fender Musicmaster or something similar. I'm not sure about the model,(GUITARHUCKSTERS: SILVERTONE H-14) but it has one pickup.

  1. How did you decide to become a Harmony (Silvertone, Airline etc.) owner?

I follow the market by keeping a close watch on the webpages of Kitarapaja and some other stores. Every now and then I find something interesting. I'm a bit of a guitar freak and I'm always looking for some specific things. This particular guitar happened to be for sale at Kitarapaja at the time when I was planning to make an album with a small combo. The album, called "Freedom Music" was released this year after various complications. Anyway, I needed an electric slide guitar since I had sold my previous one which was built by Kari Nieminen. I really regret selling it (as well as many others...) since it was a great guitar. This (H-14) looked like it would do the job so I bought it after trying it out.


I have to say that I don't play that much slide guitar (except a bit of dobro at home) since I've had the fortune to work with great guitarists like Jonni Seppälä, Esa Kuloniemi and Jarmo Hynninen. I can forget the idea that I'm some kind of slide guitar hero compared to them.

3. What's good and bad about your guitar?

There is something charming about the roughness of this kind of cheap and simple guitar. There is often some part of the sound, some particular notes or strings that stand out in a cool way. On the other hand, this guitar has a very unbalanced sound, some parts of the tonal spectrum are missing. I learned to play on a cheap guitar as a young man (a single cutaway Melody Maker-like Klira) which makes me feel at home with this kind of unbalance.

  1. Do you use your Harmony guitar for playing live or in the recording studio?

Both. There's a picture on Rootman Musics webpage from last years blues festival "Puistoblues" where you can see the guitar. I used it on the song "Freedom to Freak Out" which is on the new album (Freedom Music, 2006) and I think I used it on the release party gig at Malmitalo. The track was recorded by me (playing the H-14), Esa Kuloniemi (slide gtr., a Silvertone with lipstick pickups (Guitarhucksters: made by Danelectro) that he's had for ages), Timo Pratskin (snare drum) and Little Willie Mehto (harmonica). This was a very raw version (I didn't even know it was being recorded) which we ended up using, rough edges and all. My guitar was tuned to open A with a capo, and Esa is playing the slide parts with his Silvertone.


Unfortunately, I dropped the guitar on the ground recently on the way to band practice with the result that the neck bolts came loose. I'll have to get it repaired soon and then you'll see it on more gigs. We already have some festivals and some club gigs booked for 2007, both for my bigger band (Dr. Helander and his Medicine Men) and for my duo (Dr. Helander and minister Kuloniemi).


I have a demo version of "Freedom to Freak Out" which was recorded at my demostudio in Loviisa which features me playing slide on the H-14 accompanied by a harp and an accoustic bass (Kari Karpo).

  1. What kind of feedback have the audience and your bandmates given you about your choice of guitar?

People usually ask about my guitars after gigs, but I can't remeber anything special being said about this one. I have a Strat which was used as an ashtray on a balcony during one winter and is extremely worn. Everbody's interested in that one. You can see pictures of it on the cover of Freedom Music or on Lahden RyRy:s website.


Live 24.4.2007 Juttutupa, säästöpankinranta (koko kuuden hengen miehitys Helander-Kuloniemi-Mehto-Pratskin-Vuorela-Leppänen) GHETTOBLUES

Dr.Helander and his medicine men